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Malcolm X Shabazz High School: A School on the Rise

Malcolm X Shabazz High School: A School on the Rise

Principal, Malcolm X Shabazz HS

A quick note from Dr. Boyce Watkins:

     I recved an invitation this week to speak at the Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey. The stop is part of our Building Outstanding Men and Boys Tour (BOMB), where our simple objective is to rebuild the Black male in America. I don’t know if we have what it takes to reshape the future of all Black men in America, but I certainly know that we have no choice but to try. So far, our tour has visited Morehouse College, the Broward County School system, and St. Stephens Church in Louisville, KY. Minister Lous Farrakhan has agreed to join me in Chicago when we visit that city in the month of March.

     Additionally, BOMB has partnered with former NBA player Etan Thomas for two events on Black male fatherhood in New York and Chicago that were both hugely successful. We are going to do more of these events in the future. Our goal is to remind every Black person we meet that we must all line up as soldiers prepared to redefine what it means to be Black in America as we also seek to reclaim our families. The War on Drugs has set the Black community back at least 50 years, and if Black men don’t stand up and fix the problem, then nobody else will.

     I am impressed with Malcolm X Shabazz High School, which was somewhat troubled in the past. Using its extraordinary football team as a rallying point, the school has substantially increased its test scores and academic performance. According to the school’s principal, Gemar Mills, the school increased it’s Language Arts score from 43 percent proficiency to 67.7 percent and it’s math score from 19 percent to 35.5 percent. All of these improvements came in just one year, which makes it that much more impressive.

     What I found most interesting is how the school has learned to use the power of sports to convince it’s young students of the value of academic achievement. When you think about it, sports and academics aren’t that much different: Players must be intelligent and thoughtful when studying offensive schemes, complex defensive alignments, and other performance techniques. They also need to work very hard to achieve their athletic goals, which require a strong focus and consistent, determined work ethic. These skills are exactly the same as those needed to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer or business owner.

     When I started college, I had no idea if I was going to graduate. But my study process was simply modeled after a few simple values I learned from playing sports:

     1) If you want to win, you have to practice harder than the next person

     2) You must be sure to practice consistently

     By applying this methodology to my academics, I soon became one of the highest-performing students on my entire campus. This was after I’d spent the first twelve years of my academic career with reports filled with Ds and Fs.

     The point here is that most of our kids can go to college and most of them can be extraordinary students. What is also fundamentally true and clear is that we must embrace a fanatical commitment to academic achievement that is unmatched by any group of people around the world. Don’t just settle for getting over the bar, we should push our kids to rise so high above the bar that they can’t even see it anymore. THIS is what it means to be Black in the new millenium.

     I look forward to visiting this school next week. It’s always an honor to meet the future leaders of Black America and play some role in their progress.

     You can check out a video about this extraordinary high school by visiting this link.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


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